Today I wanted to talk to you about the starting point of all practice; motivation. In fact motivation is the catalyst for all behaviour, not just practice. I have described motivation as the fuel of our practice journey and it really is. Motivation is the creative tension that emerges in the gap between where we are and what we love. It all starts with love. We probably don’t tend to think of our practices as being about love, but that’s what they are; the sacrifice we make in the service of what we love and is important to us. That reciprocal relationship between cause-and-effect and cost-and-reward and practice-and-love is a fundamental law of life.
So before embarking on a practice journey the two key questions are “do I care enough that I am willing to pay the price of the effort involved?”. And secondly, “am I going to take responsibility for that?”. If the answer to either of these is “no” then don’t bother starting. This is the litmus test that all practices should start with, and the only person who can authentically answer that is you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
But if the answer is “yes” what can you do to either build or add to your motivation? Here are some suggestions.
- stay connected to this “Why” of your practice. Every day you practice make a intentional effort to remember why you’re doing it. Hold an image in your mind of the outcome you’re working towards; like the framed photo of a loved one on your desk.
- Perhaps some form of accountability to someone else might help. If you’re exercising for instance then find a friend to do it with. What you are doing in effect is piggybacking your accountability to your Master with your accountability to your friend.
- Set yourself a weekly practice goal. “How often will I do my practice, and for how long?”. A sense of mastery is an innate human drive so setting a goal and realising it is a motivating factor. Make the goal both accessible but also a stretch. You know you have the balance right when it feels satisfying when you get there
- You could consider giving yourself a reward if you meet your practice goal. I generally don’t recommend this because it has been shown that extrinsic rewards undermine intrinsic ones. Rewards are a kind of crutch so if you feel like you need to use one then only use it termporarily to get started or restarted.
- I have spoken before about what psychologists call “self efficacy” which is just another name for “Self belief”; your belief in your ability to do something. The reason I bring this up again is a reminder that this can unconsciously undermine our motivation. If we don’t believe we can achieve a particular outcome it will reduce our motivation. So keep this in mind and possibly tweak your practice frequency or intensity to make it feel more possible.
Nurture your motivation; its essential to the success of your practice. And one other point. Motivation is different than will-power; motivation is a pull, will is a push. We’ll talk about will tomorrow and how we can support it.